Miliband's phone confiscated after texts to Cable

Labour leader's phone taken away by aides and replaced by one with a new number.

After perhaps one too many text exchanges with Vince Cable, Ed Miliband has reportedly had his phone confiscated by aides. Today's Times (£) reports that Labour tribalist Dennis Skinner and Ken Livingstone challenged Miliband over his conversations with Cable at a preconference meeting of the NEC, to which he replied that his phone had "recently been taken away by his aides". It has apparently been replaced by one with a phone number that has been given to "a much smaller number of people". Thus, politics continues in its mission to put The Thick Of It's writers out of a job.

It's not the first time Miliband has been parted from his phone. In his interview with the New Statesman earlier this month, the Labour leader revealed that he left his phone at home during his holiday in Greece. "It was such a relief and a liberation not having a phone," he said. If someone needed to contact him, they were told to ring his wife, Justine, "which of course they were reluctant to do".

Ed Miliband told Labour's NEC that his phone had "recently been taken away by his aides". Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.